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Amish website claims:

What is the average life expectancy of Amish men and women and what is the number one cause of death in the Amish communities?

It is the same as for all persons in the United States, no different than for other groups of people. Answer coordinated by THE BUDGET [Editor: According to US Government Statistics, the average life expectancy for Caucasian men is 74.3 and for Caucasian women is 79.9. The leading cause of death is heart disease.]

I however find it doubtful that with all the medical advances people living with 18th century technologies have the same life expectancy. I understand that it is partially balanced out by more healthier lifestyle (first of all, no alcohol) etc, but still I haven't seen a persuasive statistics to convince me.

So, is this claim justified?

  • The Amish sometimes use 20th / 21st century medicine. For example: UV light. – Andrew Grimm Apr 11 '14 at 6:52
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    I suspect the #1 advantage would be a more active lifestyle. I wouldn't be surprised if that counteracted the 'less medicine' (if that's true). – Benjol Apr 11 '14 at 9:48
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    I think you are assuming that Amish don't take advantage of modern medicine where it is available. I don't believe your assumption is correct. – DJClayworth Apr 11 '14 at 15:08
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    @DJClayworth I don't assume. That's why I'm asking a question, to get an answer with references. They at least do prefer not to use a doctor amishamerica.com/do-amish-visit-doctors, which could mean they use less of modern medicine, but may be not, since non-Amish people can also find lots of reasons not to go to a doctor. – sashkello Apr 11 '14 at 22:01
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    @Christian I didn't come across any notable claim which states that. My own prejudice is not good enough :) If you have encountered such a statement, it sounds like a good question as well. – sashkello Apr 13 '14 at 23:53
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It's a claim that's repeated at many web sites (if I take for granted that "average life expectancy is about 75 years").

For example the first few results found by searching for "amish life expectancy" on google include the following.

Researchers Study the Genetics of Longevity in the Old Order Amish (from gerontology.umaryland.edu)

The current life expectancy of members of the Old Order Amish community is about 72 years, nearly the same as the life expectancy of the average American. Nearly, that is, except for two significant differences. First, among the Amish, the 72-year life expectancy is for men and women, while in the general population women tend to outlive men by about seven years. Second, the Amish have had a 72-year life expectancy not only for the past few decades, as have most Americans, but for the last 300 years—since they settled in the United States in the 1700s, when most people living in America were dying in their 40s.

THE AMISH OBESITY STUDIES

What makes the Amish such fertile ground for study on subjects such as weight loss is because they all live the same way they lived 300 years ago. They still plow their fields with horses, don't drive cars, use lanterns for electricity and only use telephones in a dire emergency. Their life expectancy is right at the US average even though they avoid modern medicine whenever they can...but the life expectancy of the Amish has been 72 or greater for almost 300 years, even when ours was 40 and they still eat like our ancestors did too, which is pretty much whatever they want. We don't recommend the Amish Diet, but there is much to be learned from the studies that measure their physical activity.

Heritability of life span in the Old Order Amish. (from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

Analyses were conducted on 1,655 individuals, representing all those born prior to 1890 and appearing in the most widely available genealogy, surviving until at least age 30 years, and with known date of death. Mean age at death (+/-SD) in this population was 70.7 +/- 15.6 years, and this did not change appreciably over time.

In summary it's very similar, or perhaps less by fewer than 10 years.

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    I assume part of the historical disparity is that they don't participate in the military and thus don't die young in combat? – explunit Nov 6 '14 at 15:06
  • The first link hopes it's genetic: The team has not yet located these genetic variations in their Amish subjects, the researchers say. But if Shuldiner were to speculate, he says they are likely to find two classes of genes: one is a class that protects humans from diseases that kill, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes; the other is a class that likely controls the biological clock. “Discovering these variations could lead to new insights into the aging process or into how to slow it down.” – ChrisW Nov 6 '14 at 15:16
  • The second link claims it's because of their "very active lifestyle." The second link might be disputed by the first link, which says, "While the Amish have a similar rate of obesity as other Americans, they boast half the rate of diabetes." The first link also says, "Their diet has changed little (they primarily eat the foods they grow), and they avoid alcohol and tobacco." – ChrisW Nov 6 '14 at 15:21
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    I guess that deaths due to participation in the military might be statistically insignificant? Three times as many people were killed by influenza after World War 1 than were killed in the war itself. And World War 2 cost the USA 0.32% of its population. – ChrisW Nov 6 '14 at 15:51
  • ("Statistically insignificant" in the U.S.A, I mean, where these Amish are; not in the U.S.S.R. etc. Although according to this the 19th century American Civil War did have some effect, i.e. (if I'm reading it right) during that war life expectancy dropped from about 40.8 to about 40.5) – ChrisW Nov 6 '14 at 16:48
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I however find it doubtful that with all the medical advances people living with 18th century technologies have the same life expectancy.

According to Health Risk Factors among the Amish: Results of a Survey:

Old Order Amish have no religious proscriptions on the use of medical doctors, drugs, or hospitals.

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    I was on a tour that visited an Amish community a few years back. They had a wood-furniture-making business. In addition to the Amish, there was one non-Amish man working there, so there was his one car parked outside. They remarked that this was convenient in case they had to rush someone to the hospital. – GEdgar Apr 4 '16 at 23:06

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